Femme assise en pyjama de plage. II
Femme assise en pyjama de plage. II (Bloch 1062)

1961 (July, Mougins)

Linocut printed on Arches with Arches watermark
One of three trial proofs of the definitive form, printed before the edition of 100 
Stamped "Imprimerie Arnéra Archives / Non Signé" on verso, lower left corner
Printed by Imprimerie Arnéra, 1961-62
Image: 15 1/2 x 11 3/4 inches
Sheet: 21 1/2 x 17 inches
(Bloch 1062) (Baer 1276.A)

Picasso created this linocut depicting a woman sitting on a beach shortly after moving from his Cannes villa La Californie into the village of Mougins in the hills nearby. Further from the beach he loved so much, in this image he returned to the style of extreme simplification that he had pioneered with his beach paintings of the 1920s and 1930s, now exploiting the characteristics of linocut—bright, flat colors and bold patterning—to enrich his theme. The early 1960s were a time of particularly obsessive engagement with this medium for the artist, who had been experimenting with it sporadically during the previous decade after discovering the workshop of Hidalgo Arnéra (1922-2007) in the nearby village of Vallauris. Creating numerous posters advertising local arts and crafts exhibitions and bullfights, Picasso had become frustrated by the time-consuming process involved in cutting a new linoleum block for each color, a process that often resulted in imperfect registration. Innovative as always, at Arnéra’s suggestion Picasso simplified this procedure through a new approach in which he carved successive stages of his image into a single block in a carefully planned order in order to print progressively in different colors.

 

The two versions of this image—Femme assise en pyjama de plage. I and II—were most likely created on the same day: July 3rd 1961. They are both two-color linocuts carved from a single linoleum block. An awkward combination of straight lines and curves, the first version is exceedingly abstracted. In it, the woman’s body is a triangle centered on a belly button that resembles an eye because of the parallel lines—the stomach folds or the folds in her beach pyjamas—above and below it. The two breasts point in different directions—one up and the other down—and her head has been reduced to a straight-lined cipher without features. Similarly, the pose of the legs—one apparently bent under the rounded buttocks and the other anchoring the triangle on the ground—is somewhat unconvincing. It is as though Picasso was experimenting with how far he could push the form to abstraction while retaining recognizability, and decided that this first version went too far. This second version, although highly abstracted, has returned to the human. The figure sits on the ground, her knees bent and her feet firmly planted on the ground. Filling the page, the composition is based around an inverse S that begins at her head and undulates sinuously down to end in her groin, providing a curving version of cubist deconstruction and multiple viewing points. At once clothed and naked, the woman’s suggestive form evokes an eroticizing imagination at play, while the parallel lines that ornament it—describing the striped beach pajamas referred to in the title—add to the decorative impact of the image.

 

This impression from the Imprimerie Arnéra Archives is one of three trial proofs of the definitive form of the image that were printed by Arnéra in 1961-2 before an edition of 100 was created to accompany the 100 deluxe copies of the book Diurnes, published by Edition Berggruen, Paris in 1962. The result of a collaboration between the poet Jacques Prévert (1900-77), the photographer André Villers (born 1930) and Picasso, Diurnes celebrates the lives of ephemeral beings who live only for a single day. Having known each other since the early 1950s, Picasso and Villers decided to create a work together that celebrated their shared love of Provence, where they both lived. In a surrealist-inspired challenge to traditional media that brought together photograms and conventional photographic prints, they combined cut out silhouettes of a typically Picassian mythology with images of landscapes and natural elements. To create the thirty lithographs that make up the book, the pair shut themselves away in a darkroom that Villers had set up in a rented country mansion in the middle of the Camargue where they overlaid Picasso’s cutouts onto Viller’s photographs. The herds of horses and fighting bulls that were grazing freely in the countryside around probably inspired many of the compositions, although Picasso’s cutouts also include human forms. ‘Letting his eyes wander from image to image’, in his accompanying text Prévert told the story of these fugitive beings from sunrise to sunset.i

 

In her catalogue raisonné of Picasso’s prints, Brigitte Baer records only a single known impression outside of the edition of 100, plus a possible second impression in a private collection, but neither of these are on Arches paper.ii Since we know of two impressions on Arches, at least two more trial proofs must have been printed and not recorded by Baer. This impression is printed on Arches paper with an Arches watermark. It is stamped on the verso at the lower left corner: “Imprimerie Arnéra Archives / Non Signé”.

 

 

i Patrick Cramer, Pablo Picasso: The Illustrated Books, Catalogue Raisonné, Geneva 1983, no.115, p.284.
ii Brigitte Baer, Picasso: Peintre-graveur, catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre gravé et des monotypes, Vol. V, Bern 1994, no.1276, p.353.